Outliers: Gladwell’s 3rd Mega Hit – Revised Summary

Why Bill Gates Was So Good

  • Bill was bored with school so his parents sent him to a private school that had a computer club and an online terminal funded by mothers doing rummage sales. Real-time computing was invented in 1965 and Bill was doing it as an 8th grader in 1968. Several other opportunities allowed Bill to spend nights and weekends programming and by the time he dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year he was way past 10,000 hours.

It’s opportunities more than talent!

  • Lucky breaks like working in Hamburg and the Mother’s computer club don’t seem to be the exception with software billionaires, rock bands, and star athletes. Time is also important. Fourteen of the richest men of all time were born between 1831 and 1840 when railroads and Wall Street were just taking off. For Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other winners in the microcomputer boom, it helped if you were born in 1954 or 1955 so you could be twenty or twenty-one in 1975.

The Threshold Effect

  • In order to accomplish great things intellectually, you need to be smart but you don’t need to be extremely smart. A study of California students in the top one percentile of IQ (Terman) showed that they accomplished no more in life than a random group of students from the same neighborhoods. In basketball, once you get to a certain point, height stops mattering. Michael Jordan was only 6’ 6”. Nobel prize winners come from Harvard and Holy Cross. With IQ, once you get to 120 you are smart enough.
  • When Terman looked at the adult records of 730 geniuses he studied, he found a wide range from doctors to postal workers. When he tried to figure out what made the difference he came up with family background. The top performers came from middle-class homes filled with books and educated parents who pushed them into after-school activities, questioned them about their school work, and encouraged them to negotiate for what they wanted.

The Criteria for Meaningful Work

  • Work needs to be reasonably complex and not routine. You need a level of autonomy. There should be a direct relationship between effort and reward. Most people will settle for less money if they can meet these criteria.
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